Energy use and abuse
Joe Tarr was right on target with his piece "Discouraging Energy Efficiency" (7/24/2014), but I have to correct Madison Gas and Electric media specialist Steve Kraus on his quibble on replacing one less efficient light bulb with a more efficient one. The $9.81 savings he cites for 2014 does drop to $9.04 in 2015, but he failed to mention that the savings drops even further to a $5.49 savings in 2016.
On the commercial side, it's even worse. Take Mr. Kraus' swapping of one incandescent for one CFL; when you look at today's commercial general (Cg-4a) rate, this energy efficiency measure saves about $6.85 in 2014. That drops to only $3.23 in 2015. So, I repeat, an energy efficiency project that would take five years to recoup the costs at this year's rates will take over 10 years to recoup the costs under next year's rates.
And no, a small energy user should not be penalized for reducing the need for more power plants, transformers or additional power lines in order to satisfy the larger energy appetite of less efficient consumers. Nor should any ratepayers be saddled with more costs due to the poor business decisions of an investor-owned utility. Are the executives and the shareholders of MGE paying their fair share?
Kurt Reinhold, Solar Connections LLC
MGE's initial proposal to charge a much higher fixed rate and a much lower per kilowatt-hour (kwh) rate was changed to the numbers reported in Joe Tarr's article due to pressure from the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), which should be thanked for its efforts. If MGE had its way, the incentive for solar investment would have fallen precipitously, rather than gradually.
In order to survive, utilities must change their business model rather than change their billing rates. The current business model is based on generating power at centralized power plants using nonrenewable resources and then distributing the power via expensive distribution systems that have detrimental environmental impacts. The new business model needs to (1) take advantage of the ability to generate power in smaller, local power plants using renewable energy sources and (2) help these local power plants by storing power generated at times when the local users can't use it. Utilities should be selling, installing and maintaining solar arrays and wind turbines and buying, storing and reselling the power generated by those installations.
In a Wisconsin State Journal article on this topic, MGE claims it is restricted "by rates" from competing effectively in such a business model, presumably because of PSC regulation. If that is the case, MGE should propose to the PSC that it be allowed to charge competitive rates in these new lines of business, rather than proposing rates for their existing lines of business that are regressive and that discourage use of nonrenewable energy resources. Wisconsin is way behind our neighboring states in such efforts.
Don & Kathy Miner
MGE ratepayers have some options. Steve Kraus mentioned that "peak power" is one of his main concerns. Peak power occurs from 10 am through 9 pm with "super peak power" from 1 to 6 pm, according to MGE's Time of Use (TOU) Rates for Residential Customers. TOU is a billing rate system that works with ratepayers to limit peak times.
The rate system is available to all MGE ratepayers; a new computerized electrical meter is installed to monitor the dwellings' electrical use, usually resulting in lower use due to increased attention by the ratepayer.
Is TOU a better way to go with MGE's plan to raise rates? I believe that it's an option to look at.
Steve Books, Mount Horeb
Having spent many years as a financial professional pricing services offered to the public, I can state categorically that Steve Kraus is mistaken when he says that it is "unfair" if prices to high and low users don't reflect the relative cost to MGE. The reason that companies base prices on relative costs is to keep competitors from undercutting prices and taking their lower-cost customers away. The PSC can certainly keep that from happening to MGE. Charging more to low-end users and less to high-end users who tend to be higher income is both unfair and bad policy in terms of conserving energy.
Dump the art
On a recent visit to the Rocks in Sydney, Australia, my husband and I marveled at the poignancy of the first settlers' remembrances -- figures, noble and strong, jutting from large pieces of rock.
We wondered why we could not have something like that in Madison to honor the wonderful Greenbush neighborhood in which my great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and even I (for two short years) lived.
At the unveiling of "The Spirit of Greenbush" in 2000, I was stunned by what I saw; words cannot describe my dismay ("Saving the Spirit of Greenbush," 7/18/2014).
Please just knock down this "art" rather than throwing good money after bad.
Jean Martinelli and G. Linn Roth